Yayoi Kusama at Museum MACAN, Jakarta
The Grab driver dropped us off at the lobby of AKR Tower, a shiny office block alongside a highway in West Jakarta.
The security guard looked ever ready to guide us through the scanner as we bumbled our way out of the car with backpack and stroller in tow.
After passing the first test, we glided along a series of escalators to the ticketing counter.
We were at Museum MACAN which stands for Modern and Contemporary Art in Nusantara, a tall order considering “nusantara” encompasses the whole Indonesian and Malaysian archipelago.
We were there to catch an exhibition by Yayoi Kusama, a Japanese contemporary artist well-known for her eye-catching artworks and installations. “Life is the Heart of A Rainbow” has over 130 of Yayoi Kusama’s works spanning over 70 years from her youth all the way till today.
It was no surprise then to see a line form at the entrance of the museum as soon as we ascended yet another escalator. I could already see the “Great Gigantic Pumpkin” by the museum cafe and massive yellow balloons with black dots floating around like they already belong there.
One giant ball that “crash landed” onto the floor hosted an infinity mirrored room – which I couldn’t bother to enter at first due to the line – while a smaller ball had a mirror dome where everyone tried to peep in. The mirror dome did create a sense of bewilderment and confusion like you’re trapped in Ant Man’s quantum realm.
We passed by “Narcissus Garden” which was 1,500 oversized stainless steel balls spread out on the floor. Again, there was a crowd queuing up to have photos and selfies of them taken with the balls so I took to perusing Yayoi Kusama’s main body of work.
Yayoi Kusama fondness of dots can be found in almost all her works, like the trio of portraits of famous women in history – Elizabeth Taylor, Marilyn Monroe and Matahari – through her own interpretation. There’s also a sculpture that looks like a sea anemone, splashed with her trademark luminescent yellow paint and black dots.
At the third time of trying, I finally relented and lined up to enter one of the rooms called “The Spirits of the Pumpkins Descended Into the Heavens,” yet another installation of yellow paint and black dots. The attendant gave us 40 seconds in the room and we tried as best as we can to get good shots in this mind-bending enclosure.
The following gallery was filled with large black and white paintings that looked like a child’s scribble and you wonder what goes on in Yayoi Kusama’s head when she crafted this series. We went on to “My Eternal Soul,” a series of colorful abstract paintings that reminded me of amoebas and bacteria seen under the microscope. The paintings were complemented with a smattering of alien-like sculptures at each corner of the room.
The final piece of this exhibition is an infinity mirror room of aptly named “Brilliance of the Souls.”
We felt like we were in a planetarium but instead of looking up to the stars, we were surrounded by them up close. The dark room was littered with bright colorful balls and the mirrors created an endless cosmos-like expanse while a pond surrounding the platform made us felt like we were standing at the edge of the universe.
Yayoi Kusama’s “Life is the Heart of A Rainbow” was definitely the highlight of our recent Jakarta trip. I have always been looking out for world-class contemporary art in Southeast Asia and places like Museum Macan and Malaysia’s Ilham Gallery are making strides in bringing in global artists to this part of the world.
Yayoi Kusama’s “Life is the Heart of A Rainbow” runs from 12 May – 9 September 2018.
- MACAN is situated in AKR Tower at West Jakarta (Google Maps). Opening hours is 10 am – 8 pm, daily except Mondays.
- Admission is Rp. 100,000 for adults, Rp. 90,000 for seniors and students and Rp. 80,000 for children. Tickets can be bought over the counter or online.
- Backpacks and big cameras are not allowed into the exhibition and will need to be checked in at the bag room. Photos, and inevitably selfies, can only be taken using your smartphones.